Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Interview with Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude

How's everyone's night going? The interview with Rebecca took a long time. The full thing won't be up here because I'm not a speed typist. (I'm almost hunt and peck. And because she's in lower case, I'll be lazy and not put me in italics or bold face.) Before we get to that, we'll note these two items from Democracy Now!

Army to Begin Recruiting High School Dropouts
In military news - the Army has opened up a new pool of potential military recruits: high school drop-outs. Under a plan announced Tuesday, the Army can begin enlisting recruits without a high school diploma if they agree to take the GED test. The military is offering to pay for the recruits to attend a GED test preparation class and to cover the cost of taking the GED exam. This policy change comes as the Army, National Guard and Army Reserve are all on pace to fall short of its annual recruiting goals.

Standards have to be lowered to meet goals. We've gone from "Join the Army and get a college education" to join the military and get your GED which really is reflective of the Bully Boy economy.

U.S. Invests Over $1B to Upgrade Middle East Bases
This comes as the U.S. is investing over one billion dollars in major upgrades at military bases in Afghanistan and the region. The New York Times reports the U.S. is spending over $100 million at the Bagram Air Base near Kabul to build permanent electrical, water and sewer systems. In addition the U.S. is replacing the air base's runway and building a hospital and housing for 1,000 service members. In Iraq, the military is also spending over $100 million to upgrade its airfield near Balad, north of Baghdad. And in Qatar, the U.S. is building a 100,000-square-foot fortified state-of-the-art regional air operations center.

Get that we ain't going nowhere? We're going to be there for decades. Iraq, the new American colony. Unless people can stop saying "fine tune" and wise up.

It's Wednesday so that means interview. And lucky for us, we've got Rebecca tonight. Rebecca, upper or lower case, do you have a prefrence?

actually, lower please.

That's how you write at your site.

yes, i apparrently invented lower case. copyrighted it. pay it forward e.e. cummings and bell hooks.

You're actually a fan of both of them and a big poetry reader. I don't think most people know that about you.

(laughing) yes, to that non question.

Who is your favorite poet?

i wish it was that easy. a list of 'my favorite' would include about a hundred names.

The title of your site is Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude. How did you come up with the title?

i wanted something that said 'this is what you're getting.' i could be wrong but i think i came up with the title on the phone with c.i. how did that go with you?

I was laughing and joking and just changing my template choice about every ten seconds. I know C.I. must have wanted to kill me. Have you seen Flirting With Disaster?

my favorite mary tyler moore performance. i know the film by heart.

So the part where Lonnie, Lily Tomlin and Alan Alda's son, accidentally doses the FBI agent with the acid?


So Lily's going to be his guide and talk him, the FBI agent, through it and all. So she tells him to pick his favorite dog. Then she's trying to help him and he wants to change his pick. So she lets him change it once. Then he keeps wanting to change it again and again. I felt like C.I. was thinking like Lily in that movie. How did you pick your template?

i think i only picked once. in fact, i know that was my first and only choice. i liked the color, the red and the pink.

Because pink is for girls?

because of the passion of the colors. and the inner nature of my thoughts. do i need to spell it out?

No. I think I got it. So let's clear this up, who started the first spin-off? You or The Third Estate Sunday Review?

me. i started on the 11th of january and the third estate sunday review started on january 16th. it's five days difference, no big deal. a winding road started up before them as well.
i think it was two or three days before.

Folding Star shut down his site right around the time I started.

july 4th. you started in june.

June 20th.I had C.I. on the phone the whole time. That first entry was rough. Which entries are you proudest of and which aren't you?

i really don't think in those terms. they're up there, all of them. maybe they add to a total picture. i don't spend a great deal of time thinking 'i should have' or 'i could have.' i think the overall picture is most important and i'm pleased with the overall picture.

Last night you wrote something that really had me laughing. The whole thing about Senator Bill Frist.


Yeah that was funny. When you write something what are your goals? Are you trying to be funny? Trying to be serious.

just trying to do whatever it is i feel at the time i'm writing.

You're practically Kat's twin! You're best friends, for many years with both C.I. and Elaine. What's that like?

here's the big secret there, they're each in awe of the other. you get used to hearing 'well you know elaine says' or 'well you know c.i. says' --

But you call C.I. by the real name.


You wrote recently about a TV actor you represented.

for one project. i was burning out doing corp p.r. and needed a change so for a brief time, i did some entertainment work in los angeles.

Do you miss doing that stuff?

not at all. but it is helpful when i'm watching a news cycle. i can look and say 'oh there's the message. they're doing a soft sell but here is the key point.' i think it makes me a little more cynical which, in these times, is probably for the best.

Of the three, are you the most cynical?

yes. elaine's . . . i don't know. i guess i'm the most cynical, c.i.'s the most forgiving and elaine's the most persistant. i'm not sure that's the word for it. i guess i would say she's the most visionary, how's that?

I can see that. When you asked Elaine to fill in for you while you were on vacation, were you hoping she'd catch the blogging bug and start her own site?

i was hoping she'd see it wasn't difficult and that she'd enjoy it. after that, i was hoping it would lead her to start her own site. i think she has so much to offer.

I do too. I've been asking her to spotlight Democracy Now! with me and C.I. stepped in to say, nicely, it is her site. (Laughing) I kind of forgot that, I guess.

well she likes doing that with you but she also has topics she wants to write about and sometimes it may be something other than democracy now! so that can sort of box a person in.
but i thought you two decided she'd note something but she was welcome to discuss other things.

Right. But that was her offer. I don't want it to seem like I strong armed her. She's an Amy Goodman fan too.

i think everyone in the community is. amy goodman and juan gonzalez bust their butts to bring you reality. you can't say that about a lot of televised news programs.

Do you prefer to watch or listen?

i always watch on the dish. i think it's great that there are so many options. you can listen on radio or watch on tv or listen or watch online or you can read online. the show's reach is tremendous and we need to be sure people know about it because we'd all be a lot smarter, and the country stronger, if we all watched.

How did you get turned on to Democracy Now!?

well, i was going through a difficult patch, with my abortion, the break up of my marriage, and i'm sure elaine and c.i. had both talked up the program to me but it wasn't until c.i. started up the common ills and i started seeing the break down that i really got interested. i watch every day. when i was on vacation, i depended on the common ills to provide me with choices that, if i had time, i'd follow up on.

How weird was it to read The Common Ills and know the person writing it?

it was . . . it wasn't weird. there are times when i wish c.i. would go theoretical because that's a strong point. but it's a plain spoken site and it works like that. it's a dinner table. that's the analogy c.i.'s long used and it's true. people come in with their own covered dishes and we all gather around to share. you know that in february 2003, c.i. started going around speaking to students and student groups about the invasion and i think all that time shows in the site because it is effective. it reaches you. it's a common sense site like it set out to be and it's our community's flagship.

I don't think C.I. likes it when we call it that.

i don't think c.i. likes that level of responsibility. when the community was smaller, e-mails were like discussions because c.i. doesn't just deliver a speech, it's more of a, and gina will love this, oprah experience where people are sharing. when the site became too much in terms of e-mails and there wasn't any way to respond to each person with a personal reply, c.i. felt it lost something.

But it getting bigger and bigger just means that more and more people are being exposed to it, right?

which is the trade off. and that's great. but if it weren't for the gina & krista round-robin, i don't know that c.i. would still be doing the common ills. gina and krista do a great job in every way but what they've really done is bind the community tighter. and that's why c.i. was thrilled when they started doing it and why c.i. continues to make time for anything they need. which isn't intended as an insult to them but last week, c.i. participated in every roundtable they had on the roberts hearings and c.i. was in d.c., tired beyond belief and giving two hours for those roundtables after a full day. the round-robin really matters to the community but it especially matters to c.i.

Are you excited that two more sites may be starting soon?

i'm very excited by that. the whole point of the community is more voices not less. i think we all bring on our perspectives and reach our own audiences. one thing i would like to see us do, is get organized more. c.i.'s doing multiple posts a day, but the rest of us aren't. i think we should figure out a way, like cedric and elaine did, to help each other out. you and i blog mondays through friday. betty when she can and it's twice a week. with betty, there shouldn't be a schedule because she's got enough demands on her and she really likes to write and rewrite and rewrite again. she's not feeling that her chapters lately are any good because she feels that they are rushed.

I didn't know that about Betty. I love her site.

i don't think she'll mind my sharing this. but when we interviewed maria for the third estate sunday review, maria made a point betty had made which was her kids are too young for her to be dating, they need her. and that's what betty wanted to talk to maria about after because she wanted feedback on whether her site was taking too much time away.

I didn't know that. I know she has a lot of pressures and that she works with all of us Saturday once her kids are settled in.

i think that even if she did have to give up her own site, she'd still work with everyone on the third estate sunday review. she enjoys that and usually the kids are about to go to sleep or already asleep so it's not a problem but in terms of her own site, it can be a problem for her because she wants an entry to be as perfect as possible and she has so little time.

So what do you suggest?

what c.i.'s already telling the 2 thinking about starting, it doesn't have to be every day and there are no rules. write about what you want to write about. folding star's giving up a winding road was a real wake up call on a lot of levels.

How so?

well you know this so i know your question is for your readers. first, you've got the shock and the fact that we all had to face that this wouldn't last forever. when folding star quit it demonstrated that any of us could quit at any time. it drove it home. second, we had to realize and really address the pressures because we were doing that to a degree but we're more open about that now. third, the importance for us, the core anyway, to come together for the third estate sunday review. that is a venting process for us. if someone's gone off in an e-mail, some whiner from the new york times, c.i. or ava or jess since they're all handling the public e-mail account for the common ills now, can talk about that. i love ava's attitude which is 'they're insane!' usually. you know c.i. and you know the 'in fairness.' i'll never forget the big whine fest 1 writer had over c.i. mispelling their name and c.i. didn't mispell it. c.i. was quoting a site, it was mispelled in a quote. that was a rough weekend as you remember and c.i. was already walking on egg shells. it wasn't a good week health wise for c.i. and it wasn't a good week for a number of other reasons. which is why we all go hunting for the mispelling the next day and when we found it and it was a quote from another site i was so pissed.

Jim was too.

right, the whiner didn't tell c.i. where it was mispelled so we all had to go through the site. and then we find it, i think jim found it, and it's mispelled in a quote, the person c.i.'s quoting from mispelled it in their post. and like jim said, you know that reporter didn't fire off an e-mail to the blogger that mispelled it. it's easy to do a number on c.i. because c.i. will try to be fair. and c.i. doesn't operate under the "i am always right!" principle.

I think that's part of why the community is so behind C.I. There's not this "I'm so much better than you mere readers" that you find at some sites.

right. a member can have as much impact as c.i. in fact a member can have more. c.i. postpones things all the time because a member or a group will be really bothered about something. the community has seen this. they expect c.i. to speak for everyone because c.i. will.
it's a positive effect of the 'in fairness" attitude. if someone's got a problem, if they feel they've been wronged by the times or the press, c.i. will address it.

Which is why issues come up at The Common Ills that don't come up elsewhere.

right. i mean you've got almost 1500, i think, getting the round-robin and there are a few members who still haven't signed up for that. but let's just say 1500, okay? that's 1500 and they all have their own issues and they'll be addressed. it might take a month or several months but people know that their issues do matter and that they matter. that's why it's a community. when john h. johnson's death was a non-event in most of the mainstream press, it only took 1 member to raise that issue. c.i. had noted the obit in the times on john h. johnson, the member noted that and noticed that the focus was all on peter jennings and felt slighted and angry. it took that 1 e-mail for the common ills to set the bar for coverage of john h. johnson's passing. i should say set the bar outside the press because the chicago defender set the bar period. but whether it's that or the paternalistic way the times covers mexico, these are issues coming from members. c.i. won't shy from them. there may be a begging off for time reasons or to follow something that c.i. didn't notice. but that's an example of how members are the community, members are the common ills. you and i have it easy, we write what we want, about what we want. we're speaking solely for ourselves. the community expects that c.i. will speak for all of them. and that is a lot of pressure and i don't think that issue has been addressed. not in a venting session, not in one of beth's ombudsman's interviews, not anywhere.

I honestly hadn't thought of it. And I've certainly been a member e-mailing saying, "This is so wrong! You've got to talk about it!" I mean, I understand the members who e-mail feeling like "if you don't address this, no one will" because I often felt that way.

i couldn't take that kind of responsibility. that's why i said from the start, just because someone e-mails doesn't mean i reply. that's not me being snotty but i'm not the voice of the community, i don't need that kind of responsibility or obligation. i'm 1 person speaking for me.

You've said before that C.I. should take a vacation.

it won't happen. with the 2004 election, c.i. kept saying, 'okay 1 more trip' but before you know it, it's election day and c.i. never had, for instance, a weekend not on the road. i think c.i., honestly, has permantly kissed good health goodbye. and the weekend trips still continue and the job is a difficult 1 so add in the multi-entry blog and . . . well you've said it before, c.i.'s like a work horse. you really have to believe that things could better to keep up that kind of schedule.

Do you ever call during an entry?

all the time. c.i.'s attitude is that if the site interferes with life, it's a problem. so there's this balancing act that goes on and, as always with c.i., the 1st thing that goes out the window is sleep.
i know c.i. was beyond exhaustion any morning i log on and the evening post was a "link-fest."
when those are up, there's just nothing left but fumes and that's all that c.i. can give at that moment.

I'm getting now why "flagship" isn't a compliment.

it is, it's also a curse. i wouldn't want it.

Then there's the TV reviews.

right, jim started saying they were the calling card of the third estate sunday review and they are, readers love them. i get e-mails on them all the time asking me "how did ava and c.i. think up that?" or "i laughed so hard." and that's just more pressure. the thing there is ava will say when it's too much pressure. she will tell jim, if he's hyping how great this entry that they haven't written yet and have no idea what they're going to say in it, she'll tell him, "stop it, it's too much." ava will set her own boundaries. she has no problem doing that. she's also, my opinion, gotten stronger with each passing week. where before she'd let something pass, now she'll call someone on their shit. she used to try to respond to every e-mail that came in. even if someone told her off in the e-mail for the tv review, she'd try to respond nicely. but c.i. always has hope that someone can be awakened. that somehow they will be reached. but in terms of the nasty visitors who e-mail the common ills, you're starting to see c.i. adopt some of ava's attitude and i think that's a good thing.

You've been the one noted for attitude in the community.

after what i've been through, you don't care anymore about if someone's offended. you say what you feel. they'll accept it or not. and if they can't take you on your terms, you write them off.

What was the lowest point for you since you started blogging?

two of them. my ex-in-laws insisting at the last minute that i couldn't post the details of my abortion and that's all i'll say on that. the other thing was the vile attack on c.i. which i think continues but we're all supposed to act like it doesn't. when some 1's mocked someone else for having cancer, they've crossed a line. when that happened, i think something unforgiveable happened. but if you asked c.i., and you know this, as much as it hurt -- and it really hurt --
there would be an attitude of 'well maybe some day it can be put behind.' which is why we don't comment on it anymore because c.i. really thinks that someone like that can turn a corner and doesn't want to drive them off onto the wrong path.

There's so much I want to say on that but we're basically under orders, from C.I., not to discuss the topic at all.

i know. and i know i broke it but i kept it vague. the thing is, if it had been done to me or anyone in the community, c.i. wouldn't play an "in fairness" on it. we need to change the subject because i'm already going to catch hell from c.i. for even mentioning it.

Okay, well where do you stand on the Times?

like a lot of members, my attitude is if it's stayed with, if there's nothing to a day's edition, just treat it in kind. sunday's entry was popular with members, where we treated the paper like the tabloid and warmed over, rehashed news it was. i know some visitors were offended. the community exists for members. if you want a times breakdown so you don't have to spend the money for a copy, you need to go somewhere else is my attitude.

If C.I. took in a vacation, would you be willing to fill in?

i'd be willing but it wouldn't happen and i'd be the last 1 asked because i'd be blunt and use non-work-safe language. i know c.i. did toy with the idea of getting folding star to do some entries for this weekend. to be sure that there would be content. i don't know if the offer was made to folding star but i'm betting it was hinted at. my guess is not too clearly because i'm sure folding star would be willing to do entries to help out. but d.c. was the test run and the entries will be there, they'll just be dictated over a phone when there's not time to sit down, boot up a laptop and do type them out.

What is the funniest moment you've ever had with Elaine and C.I.?

too many to name. but i'll pick this one. i wasn't there. elaine's calling me from her cell phone and she's with c.i., this was 2002 and she's laughing so hard i can't understand her. i'm doing the "what? what?" portion of the dialogue and finally she's telling me that cheney's limo just drove by in the procession and that c.i. flipped off cheney. i couldn't stop laughing because i can picture it. my only regret was not being there to see it. that happens a lot, actually. people think we're always hanging out. i did visit for the surgery. but since then, this may be the first time i'll be seeing c.i. face to face. this weekend in d.c. i see elaine more often. i'm also, beef here, really tired of people we've known forever complaining that c.i.'s not there to take their every phone call or hold their hand through every crisis. i told off a mutual friend last week who called to say how awful it was while i was on vacation because 'there's just no counting on c.i. these days' and i mean c.i.'s done a lot to encourage that, always being there for someone's crisis whether it's real or just perceived. but the current schedule has meant c.i. has had to stop a lot of that hand holding. like with a mutual 'friend' who was missing a deadline and trying to turn a simple comedy into a "deep" one by suddenly tacking on a combat story to it. that writer wanted c.i. to walk them through the script. and let's be really honest, that writer is a hideous writer. c.i. salvaged the previous script by that writer. c.i. went through and rewrote every scene, created real characters and not just talking heads. and the person didn't put c.i.'s name on it or offer any money. if c.i. had wanted to, it could have gone to arbitration and that person might have just gotten a "story by" credit because c.i. did a top to bottom rewrite on that thing. in 1 weekend.
and here was the lazy pothead coming back saying 'fix it for me' and c.i. would have if the idiot hadn't decided to play rah-rah war. i despise that writer and have for years because i have heard c.i. and seen c.i. sit there and walk the person through script after script. 'it's too on the nose.' 'you're starting the scene too late.' 'all the characters speak exactly the same.' and this person, who i haven't considered a friend in years, thinks a christmas card each year is thanks enough? if they go out to eat, which they haven't in over 2 years, c.i.'s picking up the tab. this person isn't just a bad writer, this person is a total user. that's been the good thing about the crazy schedule, it's forced c.i. to cut out a lot of users because there is just not time.

Does Elaine have similar problems?

no. she'll set her boundaries. elaine had to deal with her parents death very early and she'll tell you that it changed her. there is her brother, c.i., myself and probably 3 other people in her life that she'll keep in her life. any 1 else if they pull any crap, they're out. there's a song by stevie nicks that fleetwood mac recorded called "fireflies" and elaine will always say that is c.i. "to be the last to leave . . ." and i forget the rest.

I don't really know much by Stevie Nicks or Fleetwood Mac. I know "Silver Springs."

listen to "sara" sometime. hunt it down. that is c.i. i can remember a party once where c.i. left it because someone calls with a so-called emergency and c.i.'s out the door and off to see some midnight movie that they want to see. c.i. doesn't want to see it. doesn't even want to go to that area of town at midnight. next day, turns out friend in crisis didn't show. c.i. bought a ticket, went inside and the friend never showed. but c.i.'s someone that users can guilt really easy. there's a woman who's a mess and needs professional help, elaine will tell you that, and for over ten years the fat pig has insisted on meeting for lunch and never once paying. elaine will push on that. if c.i. brings up the woman, elaine will always ask 'who paid?' because that woman never pays. she can be in one of her spirals and not have any money to or she can be riding high on the hog. i don't think she even sends out a christmas card. elaine confronted her on that 1 time when the woman was in 1 of her spirals and elaine wasn't in the mood for it. she said 'you're fat and you're in a spiral so you're going to demand c.i. takes you out to eat and then you're going to boo hoo that you're fat and then you're going to start attacking c.i. for taking you out to eat and when c.i. says 'you asked to go out to eat' you're going to tell c.i. you'd have been thin for the last 10 years if c.i. didn't always take you to places with fattening foods.' and let's be honest, fatso picks out the places everytime. there is 1 type of food that is c.i.'s favorite and week after week, month after month, fatso will nix it.

What is it?

chinese. c.i. never gets to eat chinese. while we're in d.c. let's make a point to get chinese.

I'm starting to feel like maybe I'm one of the people using C.I.

no, no. you're a friend. it's a two-way street. but a lot of people who come on like friends end up being "projects." and there's not time for them now and a lot of them are having little fits because of it. i should warn you that if this goes in, all of this, you're risking a lengthy excerpt and possibly a link to this post.

Do you want me to pull anything?


Will C.I. be mad?

more embarrassed and more along the lines of "elaine's a best friend, why didn't you talk about her" or "why didn't you steer people to cedric's site?"

Cedric is great.

he is. everyone's doing a wonderful job.

Well these are topics you brought up and it's your interview so I think I'm going to leave them in.

you have my permission.

I don't want to make C.I. mad.

you won't. i'll hear about talking about fatso. i'll get the "she has a difficult life and she's not been on a date in two decades and she's this and she's that." i will add if anyone reads this and says "rebecca's making fun of fat people" that this woman is obese. this isn't pudgy or a little overweight and just as she devours every bit of food in her path, she devours every person in her path. c.i. is the last friend she has left in the world. i won't make excuses for her because she's "creative." she's a rude, nasty, mean spirited person. within 20 minutes of getting c.i. off somewhere one on one, she'll turn all of her problems into c.i.'s fault. her weight. her this, her that. her own sisters won't have anything to do with her. people don't want someone who never does anything with their life unless bills are due to turn around and blame them for all their problems but that's what fatso does. and the only sexual thrill she gets in the last 2 decades is in ripping people apart to their faces. i've told c.i. to cut her loose, elaine's said the same thing. but c.i.'s feeling is that she doesn't have anyone else. so c.i. will arrange meetings so that they're brief and that 'woops, i'm late' pops up as soon as she starts snarling. if the woman had anyone else in her life, i think she'd be cut out the way the other users have been. so if someone reads this and says 'rebecca, it's not easy to lose weight' i'm sure it's not. especially if all you do is watch tv and stuff your face. especially if your whole life, your family's never made you work or even live on your own. she's like monica on friends in the fat suit, only larger, and she's got nothing in her life. only monica was sweet. this woman is just hateful and evil.

How does someone end up friends with her?

a mutual friend of c.i.'s, the judge who gave the info for the round-robin. i think he pushed the friend off on c.i. myself. c.i. needs to find someone to push her off on now.

Well this wasn't like I expected. How about you?

i had no idea what i'd talk about. hopefully there's something in here that's interesting. i'd hate to have bored everyone.

One thing that Elaine wanted me to clear up, she said it had been bothering you, a lot of people are mad at your ex-husband.

right. they seem to think he's the reason that i didn't put up my post about my abortion. that's not true and i've said it over and over. in the round-robin, at my site. he was for posting it. i decided not to because i knew his parents would be pissed and he would bear the brunt of it. we don't hate each other, my ex and i. we get along. we can still make each other laugh. there's probably mutual attraction still. but he's a nice man and i don't want to cause him any hurt. but the idea that he is the cause is wrong. he has told me repeatedly, "becky, put it up. fuck 'em."
so who do you have next week?

I have no idea. I've been so focused on classes and getting ready for D.C.

this'll be your first time visiting d.c., right?

Yeah, I'm really excited. About seeing it, about taking part in the protests, about all of us hanging out together.

i think it will be a lot of fun.

Me too. Thank you for the interview.

thank you, mike.

Rebecca, her site is Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude. If you've never visited it, you should.

not tonight. i'm doing a quick entry and relaxing.

Was this a rough interview?

an exhausting one. which isn't your fault.

Good. I'd hate to think I put you through the wringer. Last week I interviewed my buddy Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix. Before that, I interviewed Elaine, Jess, Ty, Dona, Jim, and Ava. Next week, who knows?